Why is Microsoft giving its iMoney away?

Microsoft’s resistance to the changing computer word continues as it prevails in its belief that its success means other’s failure. Not only has the company quietly raised the price of its Office suite for Mac users, but its seemingly blinkered vision to deny a version of the productivity suite to iPad users seems set to cost the company billions of dollars while annoying users.

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No more Windows only any more

Ask anyone involved in enterprise IT and they’ll gladly tell you that we’re no longer living in a Windows-only world. The BYOD wave has driven enterprise shops to become heterogenous, offering up support for Macs, iOS and Android devices beside their traditional PCs.

Microsoft’s Windows 8 and its Surface tablet give enterprise customers a way to remain faithful to the platform, but less than stellar sales and slack upgrades suggest customers are resistant to remain fully committed to Redmond’s systems.

That’s sad news for Microsoft, but will likely be good news for security in the enterprise — it’s harder to cause a wholesale outbreak of malware-borne carnage on mixed platform networks.

Microsoft doesn’t seem to see it this way. CEO Steve Ballmer raised a little attention recently when he claimed that not offering versions of Office for the iPad is something that “makes sense”.

Follow the iBenjamins

At least one analyst disagrees, pointing out that in the real world outside Ballmer’s bubble, Microsoft may be losing as much as $2.5 billion every year by refusing to expand Office to iPhones and iPads.

Morgan Stanley analyst, Adam Holt, points out that Microsoft could generate as much as $2.5 billion per year extra by making its productivity products available for Macs. That’s almost half of what Office already earns for the company, according to ZDnet.

There’s been months of rumours claiming Microsoft plans a version of Office for iOS. These have grown so strong the company doesn’t even deny these plans any more. The market’s certainly there — for all its faults, Office has clawed its way to the top to become the world’s standard suite for productivity on any platform. With so many millions now also using an Apple iPhone or iPad, Holt things up to one-third of iPad users would choose to purchase an iOS Office suite.

“Holt believes that Microsoft could generate around $2.5 billion in revenue on Office for iPad alone, after Apple collects its commission fees, of course,” writes ZDnet.

Online services?

The thing is, Microsoft may have a plan to avoid paying Apple anything at all. It already offers some apps for iOS, most of which are free to download.

However, what it has also recently done is raise Office prices for Mac users in what seems to some to be a blatant attempt to make its Office 365 subscription service more attractive.

That service offers up versions of Office as online hosted apps for use through a Web browser. The most recent iterations of this aren’t available for the Mac, but this could simply reflect moves on the part of Microsoft to develop iOS-compatible Web apps to make available on a subscription basis via the browser, or, conceivably, via a free app, just so long as you had a valid usage account.

That kind of model would enable Microsoft to avoid paying Apple anything, and would secure its stronghold in the Office space.

One thing that cannot be easily ignored is just how strongly desired a version of Office for iPad is by enterprise and education customers.

The other thing that’s hard to avoid is just how unhappy Microsoft must be that the biggest selling PC in the world at present isn’t a PC, but a tablet, the Apple iPad.


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